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Color Me Barbra

Have you ever met Barbra?

Yvette, our docent, never removed her sunglasses, and skillfully fought off the question as she adhered to the script. If there is one point to be taken away from this tour, it's that the world's most delicious climate, the Mediterranean climate, exists in only five places: the Mediterranean, southwestern Africa, the southwestern tip of Australia, Chile, and southern California. Malibu feels like paradise because it is, with warm, dry days and cool nights and the ocean breeze carrying the scent of jasmine and sage and chaparral through the still canyons.

Our first stop was The Barn, the three-bedroom house renovated after Streisand and Jon Peters purchased the first of six parcels of land here in 1974. This is where they lived during the au naturel, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar seventies, when the singer wore her hair like Pam Grier, and architecture and decorating took a turn toward Thoreau. Craftsmen and toymakers—toymakers!—rebuilt The Barn inside and out with old and aged wood from upstate New York. It just wouldn't be the seventies without lots of stained glass, and every nook and cranny is handmade to look as if it had sprung from the forest. It's the Adam and Eve in Malibu look.

Beside The Barn, Streisand added a grove of redwoods, among the 1,000 non-native varieties she planted on the property. "They give you the feeling you're in northern California," Yvette pointed out. Not that there's anything wrong with Malibu.

Did she sleep in all of the houses?

Yvette deftly changed the subject as we moved on to The Corral, now a cutting and herb garden, and The Meadow, the site of the "One Voice" concert for HBO. Here, on the night of September 6, 1986, in a natural amphitheater with terraced orchards of lemons, limes, grapefruit, and avocados as a backdrop, the singer gave her first full-length concert in 20 years, for an audience of 500, as a benefit for the Hollywood Women's Political Committee. Many Democratic candidates that November were beneficiaries of her renditions of "Somewhere" and "Send in the Clowns," and "Guilty," sung in duet with a Bee Gee.

What did Barbra pay for this place?

"I really don't know," Yvette said politely, and without skipping a beat coaxed us along to The Peach House. Originally a small stable, it became a villa in the Mediterranean style, its peach stucco walls made even more scrumptious with masses of pink begonias and cherry-blossom bougainvillea. You could just die.

Yvette was eager to show us the screening room. In the late 1970's it was state-of-the-art, with two 35 mm projectors and a Sony Trinitron, all of which look rather quaint now. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at a screening of Yentl in this room full of oak woodwork carved with bare-breasted (turn your head, Yentl) Art Nouveau nymphs, with a big fire in that glitzy onyx fireplace.


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